A bank of clouds,
gray and moving fast, slipped west toward New York City, passing low above the
barns at Belmont Park. Two cats picked their way between puddles outside the
Calumet shed, and every now and then someone splashed across the yard past Barn
10, past Frank Whiteley's barn, where the trainer was standing at the door of
The weather had
not held for Whiteley, and it was not holding now. It was July 4, Independence
Day, the day of the $106,400 Suburban Handicap at a mile and a quarter, the day
that Forego was to make his run at the record. It had been lovely all week. The
racetrack had been dry and fast—the kind of track that Forego likes best—until
the day before the race. It rained most of that day and all night into the
morning of the Fourth, and by noon the racetrack was a mousse.
Whiteley had been
hoping for a turn in the weather. A bright sun, mounting with a steady wind,
might have dried the track by race time. But there was no sun on the Fourth,
only the wind that turned the manes of the horses standing in their stalls.
Inside Stall 24, tethered to the rear wall by a shank and bathed in the glow of
a warming lamp. Forego craned his neck to see behind him. His coat, normally a
dappled walnut brown, seemed now eerily afire, a reddish gold in the light from
the sunlamp on the ceiling. He was listening to the voices behind him.
"Fix up his
nose?" Whiteley asked.
Shotgun Hampton said.
"Wipe it out
The two men get on
well. Hampton, at 45, has been around horses most of his life, working for this
outfit and that, and finally for Whiteley and Forego. Whiteley had given
Shotgun his handle. Hampton, not to be outdone, sometimes calls Whiteley
Cottonhead, aiming the reference at the trainer's white hair.
isn't he?" Whiteley said.
It was 4:40 in the
afternoon. Bobby Witham, Forego's exercise rider, came by. "Uh-oh,"
Frank said. "Here comes trouble. What do you want?"